The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Papaya into Your Diet

Carica papaya is a tropical fruit popularly known as pawpaw. The orange-colored fruit belongs to the Caricaceae family and is native to Central America and Southern Mexico. Papaya is plump, oval-shaped, and comes in small or large sizes. Unripe papayas have green flesh, while the ripe ones have yellow flesh. The edible part which is beneath the flesh has a sweet taste and can be yellow, orange, or red. Papaya contains seeds, which are edible but taste bitter when eaten. 

Papaya is a nutrient-dense tropical fruit consumed in various parts of the world. It is used in a variety of dishes, salads, and smoothies. The fruit has been used to tenderize meat for thousands of years because it contains an enzyme called papain (also responsible for papaya’s pungent smell). In this article, we look at the health and nutritional benefits that papaya provides when consumed.

Health and Nutritional Benefits of Papaya

Papaya is rich in various healthy antioxidants, but it is especially high in a carotenoid known as lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant mostly associated with orange and red fruits such as tomatoes and watermelon. Another antioxidant that can be found in papaya is Zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is known for its harmful blue-light-ray-filtering benefits and its role in preventing macular degeneration. 

Papaya is an excellent source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, K, and C. All these nutrients are known for their various health benefits. Moreover, research shows that antioxidants in papaya are absorbed better by the body when compared to other fruits and vegetables.

One small papaya fruit (152 grams) contains approximately:

  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Calories: 59
  • Carbohydrates: 15 grams
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 14% of the RDI
  • 11% of the RDI for Potassium
  • 157% of the RDI for Vitamin C
  • 33% of the RDI for Vitamin A

Papayas also contain:

  • magnesium
  • copper
  • pantothenic acid

Filled with all the nutrients and antioxidants listed above, papaya has some impressive effects on health. Some of the advantages of papaya on your health include:

May Reduce Inflammation

Papaya contains antioxidants that can reduce inflammation. One of the most important of these antioxidants is Choline. Choline helps to maintain cell membrane integrity, and strengthen memory pathways and muscle development. The result of these effects is improved sleep, better muscle learning, and improved memory. 

Provides Antioxidant Effects

Free radicals are reactive molecules produced in the process of metabolism. They have the potential to promote oxidative stress, which often leads to disease. Antioxidants found in papaya have been found to be very effective in neutralizing free radicals. This antioxidant effect is linked with lycopene’s ability to eradicate excess iron, a substance known to induce free radicals. 

Supports Immune Health

Papaya benefits the immune system in many ways. The fruit contains nutrients that help stimulate the immune system, such as beta carotene. Papaya is rich in Vitamin C (about 200% DV). Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that protects your cells against the effects of free radicals and prevents diseases. The orange-colored fruit also contains vitamin A and E, which are both beneficial in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol and reducing the risk of chronic heart diseases.

Aids Digestion

Papaya, like most fruits, is high in soluble fiber and contains about 88% water. Thus it is the perfect fruit for easy digestion and blood sugar regulation. The high fiber and water content in papaya also give the feeling of satiety, thereby promoting a healthy weight. People in the tropical regions use papaya as a home remedy for constipation. The papain in papaya also helps break down protein easily. 

Enhance Skin Health

Free radicals are responsible for breaking down the skin’s collagen, leading to sagging, wrinkling, and other skin damage. Fruits rich in Vitamin C, such as papaya, help restore collagen in the skin and promote tissue repair in all parts of the body. The result is healthy and youthful skin. Also, when applied topically, papaya appears to promote wound healing and prevent skin infection. This beneficial effect comes from the proteolytic enzyme in papaya known as papain. 

May Improve Heart Health

The nutrients in papaya may boost your heart health. A high level of cholesterol in the blood can lead to coronary diseases including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. The potassium, vitamin, and fiber content in papaya are all beneficial to heart health because they help lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Potassium helps lower sodium levels in the blood and reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Moreover, the antioxidants in papaya may enhance the good effects of HDL (good cholesterol).

Has AntiCancer Effects

By reducing free radicals, antioxidants in papaya, such as lycopene, can reduce cancer risk. A number of studies show that lycopene can mitigate the growth of cancer cells, particularly breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer. 

The Bottom Line

Papaya is a tasty fruit, rich in nutrients and loaded with antioxidants. The antioxidants in this tropical fruit can lower the risk of diseases by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Papaya promotes digestion as it contains a healthy dose of water and fiber. Also, due to its antioxidant content, papaya may reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. If you aim to increase your intake of antioxidants and health-promoting nutrients, eat this juicy soft fruit raw or infuse it in your salad.